Whoops. I didn’t post these. I have no good reason. But here they are now! Better late than never?
For most of week 5, I tried to play around with a single sound. For most of Week 6, well, I tried for chiptune-ish music.
One thing I find myself having a hard time doing is figuring out how to tell a full story in a minute.
Also, I have to admit, on Thursdays, I have a hard time doing something that sounds good. Mostly because we have our weekly dev nights, and I tend to not put a full effort towards the track on those days. This something I’ll need to fix.
Anyway, here’s all the music. There’s none in particular that I like, so if you’re reading this, I won’t mind if you skip everything.
Also, I didn’t really adjust for volume. So, if you do decide to listen, start with the volume low.
Thursday, February 18th
Friday, February 19th
Saturday, February 20th
Sunday, February 21st
Monday, February 22nd
Tuesday, February 23rd
Wednesday, February 24th
Thursday, February 25th
Friday, February 26th
Saturday, February 27th
Sunday, February 28th
Monday, February 29th
Tuesday, March 1st
Wednesday, March 2nd
There’s a 6 episode Netflix documentary I’m almost finished with called Chef’s Table. It’s been quite intimidating to watch, but not because I have a dream of opening my own restaurant, or because I want to learn how to create certain types of dishes. As a matter of fact, the show isn’t good for that at all. Rather, it profiles a series of chefs, detailing their lives (for the most part), and diving deep into their philosophies on the possibilities and experiences they can create. It’s no mistake that these chef’s are a part of this series. Without a doubt, they excel at what they do. Whether the cuts are ‘rustic’, the portions small, the plates messy, or the shapes pristine, the level at which they create their dishes is at a level that many culinary hopefuls wish to achieve. It’s likely that there are many chefs out there that are just as good, or possibly better. Yet, during this run of Chef’s Table, they weren’t chosen. Why they weren’t chosen, I can’t say, only the creator of the show can. While it’s clear why the first season’s chef’s where chosen, I believe that they were not chosen because of their skills, or because their lives are interesting, or because they cooked with only a few apprentices on an isolated island. I believe they a part of this documentary because of level of respect they held for the culinary arts.
The respect each person held for their craft was incredible, inspiring, and as I mentioned, intimidating. So intimidating that I began to question myself and the level of respect that I have for game development. Each chef is great at what they do. Although I haven’t, and likely never will be able to dine at one of their establishments, it seems clear that their food taste well above par, even if dining at the restaurant was more about the experience, rather than the perfectly cooked deer or salmon. But what was even more impressive was how much they respected cooking and crafting their food. And again, it was intimidating, forcing me to ask myself a few questions:
“Do I have that level of respect for game development?”
“Is my lack of respect the reason why I’m not where I would like to be?”
“If I lack respect for game development, is it because somewhere inside, I don’t like game development?”
These questions may be reaching for something where there is nothing. But, they were questions that I could not stop exploring in one way or another during Chef’s Table. Was I being fair to the art that I was trying to create?
There are many that would say they’re just games, and you know what, there are times where I feel those people are right. There are also those who say that games are more than that, but that’s a debate for another time. The line of thought that I have in regards to respect presumes that games are not just games. This premise needs to be in place because without it, I would feel silly believing that working on games deserves respect. So, let’s say that games are something complex enough to deserve a certain level of respect during development. The next question that comes to mind when I think “Do I respect this enough?” is “What does it actually mean to respect the game in development?”. Here is where things get a bit more clustered.
Let’s go back to Chef’s Table, and how these chefs respected their craft. What did they do that set them apart? From the stories they told, they all seemed to not only passionately care about how food was cooked and displayed, something most professional chefs care about, but it was clear that they wanted to know more about each dish and it’s components. They wanted to know the past stories that each plate could tell. They wanted each dish to sing about their future, and in the present, they wanted each element of a meal to completely trap you in their world. The waitstaff wouldn’t need to tell anyone about the dish, it spoke for itself, something it can’t do on it’s own, but through the interpretation of the chef. The chef was the translator between the stories that each piece of food had and the person that was about to experience that story. Each chef wanted to bring to the table elements that people would either not think about or experience, whether that meant going to the source of food and getting involved at the beginning of it’s life cycle, or using the same ingredient at different stages of it’s life, telling a multi-part play as you moved through the dish.
That is the type of respect that I would like to have for game development and for games as they progress from nothing into something. But what does this mean? Does this mean that each element of the game needs to have it’s own story that I fully understand/research from conception to it’s eventual release into the world? How much attention does everything get, and how can each element receive it’s fair share of study? It sounds much simpler when tackling each aspect on it’s own. The art can tell it’s own story, the music another, and the game mechanics can tell a tale separated from the rest. But what makes most experiences something special is if each of these were all brought together, played off each other, and created something new, like the ingredients of a chef’s meal. Now, does that mean that if I wanted to respect the craft, I should focus on the sum of the parts, and not the individual things that make each element great? Unfortunately, that’s not something I can get behind, although it would make everything a lot easier. To go a bit further, subjects of Chef’s Table also dove into the world of their food before it made it into the final dish. Every ingredient could tell at least two stories, one from it’s time during growth, and one from it’s time with the other ingredients.
I do think making this connection, and understanding how respect for game development is possible, but I feel as if I need to turn to something else to help bridge the gap of how I should respect game development.
One other thing I’m constantly finding myself comparing games to is dance, with game development being choreography. There are several parallels that I can make, some which have helped me though my design work. The one that I’ll touch upon is: most of the time you’re creating something from nothing, something that you want people to experience. Choreography and development can have strong elements of structure and strong elements of improvisation, in both the development stage, and in the finished product. In theory, what it takes to design a good dance is the same as what it takes to choreograph a good game. You can start off with a seed, something that you expand upon each time you go back to it. You design moments around the seed, moments you want to hit, moments you want people to experience, in either interpretive ways or explicit ways.
With dance, it’s a bit clearer for me to draw a comparison of respect, the same respect that I see in the subjects of Chef’s Table. Each move can be broken down to match the music and express a particular emotion that you’re having or want the audience to feel. You can sit and play back every moment that you created, see how it relates to the moments before, and how it will lay out a plan for the moments that come afterwards. It really is an extension of yourself, both physically and mentally.
Through choreography, I feel like there’s a lot that people can learn about game development, but again, that’s a separate topic that we can spend hours on. To bring dance back to respecting game development, maybe I’m thinking too big, too early. A 5 minute dance isn’t created in anything less than that amount of time, even if the entire thing is improv. An engrossing dinner with a story to match isn’t created in the 10 – 60 minute window after the kitchen receives the order from the waitstaff. A game of a similar level isn’t created during a small window of time. A game of that level needs to start off as a seed, and needs to have extra seeds placed around it, seeds that would help it grown. Each of those seeds need to be able to survive on it’s own, but thrive with it’s fellow seeds. Each seed needs a fair amount of attention. If you don’t nurture the artistic seeds, the story seeds may not grow into whatever their final form is meant to be. Thoughtfully nurturing each seed of development, keeping them together, but allowing them to survive on their own, can be considered an initial step at reaching a high level of respect for game development.
But does this nurture lead to a good game, a game that one can respect after they decide to stop watering the seeds? Does the end of tending to one part of a game mean that you no longer respect it, or you’ve given it as much respect as it deserves? Frankly, I don’t know, I still haven’t created anything that I think that can reach this level of discussion. Rather, at the moment, I’m still exploring whether it’s possible to respect game development as the chefs on Chef’s Table respect their food.
Because there are so many components that go into game development, it’s difficult to determine how to manage your garden before it becomes something others will consume. Furthermore, what counts as a seed? Is it too much to say that a seed starts as the smallest part of the element? This has the danger of becoming a intimidating rabbit hole. But the chefs on Chef’s Table seemed to follow this path. One episode had a chef go to the farm and create a system where the farm helps itself grow. This meant micromanaging each element of the farm before it left and found it’s way to the restaurant. Would it be fair to do the same with games? Before you even get to what can normally be considered preparation for the meal, should you manage the environment from which it came? It seems idea, being able to control everything, but the process may not transfer over from the culinary world to the world of game development. At times, it may not seem practical, especially for the solo dev with obligations pulling them in every direction.
And at what point does this control and desire for having the optimal growth become an unhealthy obsession? A seed can grow into a plant without 24 hour a day maintenance. Does respect for one’s craft also mean letting it breath on it’s own every once in a while? Should you allow the elements to grow on their own, improvising what you do based on what happens after you step away? It seems difficult to do in an area where developers have a high level of control.
During this search for respect, I keep on wondering…is this even necessary?
So, I’m finally planning to launch the Kickstarter for These French Fries Are Terrible Hot Dogs. I’m asking for $4,000, and I’ve heard from others that it’s a reasonable goal. I’m trying hard to ignore my barrage of self-questioning and hoping that others correct. Anyway, overall, I’m pretty excited to get this started, and definitely curious to see what the results will be.
I never really thought about doing a Kickstarter for the game, at least, certainly not after it’s creation. I just figured it’d be something I would play with people from time to time, and not make it bigger than it was at that moment. Most of reasons behind those thoughts was because I wasn’t sure how the game would work in a public space. Yes, it’s a easy going game that doesn’t take too much effort to understand, but there are a number of games out there that people just ignore, regardless of the game’s quality. Eventually, when I realized that the game should be bigger than what it was, Kickstarter became more of an appealing option. It was always an option, but the feedback, as well as people asking “So, when are you going to do Kickstarter for the game” swayed me to the crowdfunding website.
On the path to this launch, I did a number of things, some right, some wrong, as one would expect with most ventures.
1. I could have maintained a better schedule
For anyone who doesn’t know me, I want to make games of all kinds, not just tabletop games, or just digital games. I’ve been mostly working on digital games, some where you need to use a mouse/keyboard, others controller based. I even worked on a game called Rainbow Bacon, which used Playstation Move Controllers. I don’t want to work in one space of games, I want to live in each area. Because of that, I’m usually working on multiple projects all at once, projects vary greatly under the large umbrella of game and their development. This often leads me to unfairly devoting time to one project when I should be spending more time on something else. Part of this is because I would fail to recognize the importance of one project, and underestimate the time it would take to complete a certain issue. I do try and keep a tight schedule, and I use project management software to organize my tasks. However, it’s easy to get lost in different projects, especially when you don’t know where each one will eventually turn up.
I also don’t have a full days to dedicate to game development. I can only work on projects after I get home from my day job. Then there’s those annoying things that need to be taken care of, like eating, sleeping, and maintaining a certain level of hygiene. I usually try to make Saturday’s my big, ‘productive’ day, but I also remember that I need to spend time doing game development research (read: play games).
As time has gone on, I have gotten better with my project management. As with most things, though, there’s still room for improvement.
2. I did keep a schedule
While I could have kept a better schedule, the fact remains that I did keep a schedule. I did go through bouts of not being able to do as much as I would have liked, but when I was on a roll with keeping on top of tasks, I was able to push through and complete all the things I needed to get done.
3. Events and the constant delay
Originally, I wanted to launch the Kickstarter for this game in August. However, I submit my game to the Boston Festival of Indie Games, after which I decided to try and delay the game until around, or shortly after that event. This way, the game would be fresh in people’s minds, and it would be easier for them to remember that the game was something that they may have enjoyed. BostonFig was in September, and obviously, I haven’t pushed the launch button. Part of this was because I wasn’t completely ready for my Kickstarter. Another reason was because shortly before BostonFig, I found out that Terrible Hot Dogs was accepted as part of the game showcase for IndieCade 2103. After that, I knew I had to wait, even if it meant not running the Kickstarter until late October.
So, I pushed it back again. Was it worth it? I would definitely say yes. Both of those events allowed me to introduce the game to new people who enjoyed the game. The goal for me and this project is to have as many people play as possible, and that can only be done if I try my best to tell everyone about the game. BostonFig and IndieCade both helped me make progress in that area.
4. I received help
Getting help can be a double edged sword if not handled properly. During the build up to the Kickstarter, I did receive a lot of assistance, whether it was with production, or just general advice. The visuals aren’t mine, they belong to Will Stallwood, of Cipher Prime. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to make something look that good, and luckily, I knew someone who could. He also helped out with the video and other general Kickstarter advice. As a matter of fact, I did get a of advice on how to run the Kickstarter from the people who attend Philly Dev Night. There was great input on what I should put on the page, when I should launch, etc. However, if not handled carefully, that could easily lead to a case of too many cooks in the kitchen. There were times I was more influenced by people that I should have allowed myself to be, and in hindsight, there are areas where I should have reached a decision much earlier than I did. Regardless, all the help I received was useful in one way or another. Additionally, I was also able to reach out to a few people who played the game at these events and they provided me with great feedback.
5. I was nervous
And I still am. The biggest drawback to being nervous is that it can hold you back. It’s incredibly easy to say “Just do it”, but sometimes, there are some heavy physiological hurdles that one may need to get over. It’s different with everyone, but that’s all I’ll say about the subject, as I am not knowledgeable enough to continue writing about it. In my particular case, I’m constantly worried about what people will think, whether or not the project is good enough, and if this is an endeavor even worth pursuing. I’m sure that a majority of people have this battle, and I’m no stranger to it.
Conversely, being cautious and nervous can work out in your favor. There were a few situations where I was doing something horribly wrong, and because I was cautious, and nervous about, well, everything, I would review different areas over and over again. I did manage to catch a few mistakes, some of which could have really gotten in my way later down the line, and cause unnecessary headaches. It would be nice to think that it was just being cautions, but I owe a great deal to me being nervous about the entire thing.
There’s a lot of minor things that I could have done better/worse, and a lot of them probably fall under planning. Now, though, I need to focus on what is next! I still have no idea about how I will approach the press about Terrible Hot Dogs. I do know that I’ll have help, and I plan to take full advantage of the offers I was given. of course, only time will tell, and we’ll see this upcoming Monday when the Kickstarter goes live. [I will update this post after it goes live with a link to the page]
I’ve been working on a game called Chromality for a while. I’ve been distracted by a number of things along the way, such a card game about French Fries and Hot Dogs, or a physical game about colorful bacon, but slowly, I’ve been making progress with Chromality. It’s a co-op/competitive game where two players share one controller in order to destroy targets on screen. I haven’t had the chance to show it off too often, partially because I haven’t been completely satisfied with the visuals. People have seen it, but that’s besides the point.
Over the course of development, I’ve changed the looks of certain elements. I started off with mostly…well….lines, then moved on to pixelated art, then moved on to a more cartoony style. I’ve now kept with the cartoony style, but decided to try and add a bit of comic book flair.
As I get closer to the end of the updated visuals, I’ll post a series of images detailing the evolution of the game’s design. For now, I’ll show a bit of what I hope is to come.
Another note: I started using Photoshop, which hopefully help make game elements more appealing.
The first thing I actually changed was the explosion that appears after a target explodes. The original explosion was something that looked like this:
The halftone is what, I’m hoping, gives it an older comic book feel. The reason why it is grey is for when I use the image in Unity. Instead of uploading multiple files of the explosions as different colors, I can add this image, then write some code that says ‘make that red’, or whatever color is necessary.
The hearts indicating health were another display that received a visual update. I’m doing the whole Adobe Creative Cloud thing, which is pretty awesome, so I hopped into Illustrator first to work on the heart, then finished it in Photoshop. I’m actually pretty happy with how the heart looks, so much that if someone asked for the file without the pattern, I’d let them use it, and wouldn’t feel 100% embarrassed.
The heart in the back is the older one, and you can see how the the first one isn’t as sharp as the second. I also took away the ‘shine’ from the upper left corner of the heart, an left it flat. And again, halftone.
One thing that I know I need to be wary of are the dots. If I have too many, the game may become a mess. So, this is something that is going to take some time to properly balance. Iteration, I guess. Seems to be the key to a lot.
Next, I’m planning on finishing the full mock up of what I want the end product to look like, similar to what I did for the original design. After that’s finished, I can get back to some of the gameplay elements. But that’s it for now.
I’m still working on my digital games. Not as much as I would like, at this current point in time, but I’m still working on Chromality.
However, in my attempts to make all types of games, I have started to work on a card game.
The name is a mouthful, yes. Initially, a lot of train rides/walks were spent brainstorming a better name. However, every time I went to tell someone about the game, I used the ‘terrible hot dogs’ name as the game’s title. Eventually, the name stuck, and I can’t really come to terms with parting from the extravagant title. So, the name of the game is These French Fries Are Terrible Hot Dogs.
It’s a card game where you must convince others that your card is another card. However, to do this, you’ll need to use true facts about your card. How are hot dogs similar to french fries? What about a wrench?
That’s the gist of the game, and it actually requires a lot more work that I thought. Unfortunately, my game logging as not been as extensive as it has been for my digital projects, but I’m hoping to change that within the upcoming days. Additionally, I may need to run a Kickstarter campaign, which is actually absolutely terrifying to me. There’s already a new design for the cards, which I am very happy with, so hopefully, the cards will be more appealing to others. The new designs weren’t done by me. The photo above is probably the extent of my design ability for now. Regardless, a lot of thought needs to be put into this before I start something.
In the meantime, I need to go out and play test this game as much as possible. Since it’s a card game, it’ll be fairly easy to set up and breakdown pretty much anywhere, something I’m happy about. After that, the plan is to make trips to various places and trick people into playing. We’ll see what happens.
Two weekends ago, I went to the Different Games Conference in New York. It was an excellent conference, and I was luckily enough to have people play Rainbow Bacon. Of course, I was to caught up in doing things to remember to take pictures of anything there.
One of the events I attended was a board game workshop. Now, I’ve played board games in the past, but not enough to gain a better understanding of standard board game mechanics that lifelong board game designers simply know from years of experience. Regardless of my lack of knowledge, the plan was to learn something and potentially make something that I didn’t hate.
The process of the board game, for me, was filled with trial and error. A lot of trial and error. In the time we were given to work on games, I was able to throw away a large number of concepts that just didn’t work, or just seemed good in my mind, but terrible once put into production. And it was awesome.
I’ve been mostly developing digital games for the last couple of years, save a couple of card games, one of which I’m actually still developing at this moment. With digital games, it took much longer to implement an idea, even after the bare minimum was documented for the initial prototype phase. Combined with the fact that game development is not my full time gig, much time is spent simply working on something that may not even become more than the prototype. That’s not to say that it’s a major, or even a minor problem. Of course, it’d be nice if each idea was guaranteed to function properly and interface correctly with the world.
Also, prototypes are pretty fun.
Anyway, the board game designs gave me more confidence after each failure. A sense of, “Hey, I failed, but it only took me 10 minutes to fail. I can fail 10 more times and be okay!”. This is different from my original design process for digital games, and will definitely shape the way I work on all games in the future. This isn’t say that I’m afraid to fail when creating a digital game. I’ve failed before, and I’ll do it again. The difference is that the cost of failing was less when rapidly prototyping a analog game. Before long, I was able to create a pair of concepts that were mostly solid. One of the games still requires play testing, while the other needs for me to work on the new rules.
How will this affect me in the future? First, I’ll probably make more board games overall. There may be some games that just won’t work with a computer screen, or be better expressed as a board game. Instead of trying to force every idea I have into something that requires a controller, a mouse, and/or a keyboard, it might be better to allow a project to thrive in the environment that allows it to thrive best.
Next, and more importantly in terms of my actual development, more of my prototyping phases will begin with a more detail paper and pen design, or other physical objects, such as dice, chips, cards or more. I’ve read about this before, from a number of places. Developing a paper prototype is great for the beginning phases of any sort of game design, if applicable. Working with paper prototypes allow you to better refine a game project before you write lines of code. Having more of an idea with what you want from the starting phase will allow for a potential faster realization of what you’re trying to accomplish. Now, I do not want to undermine the importance of improvisation and randomness when trying to create game. I’ve done a number of things that I like when just experimenting. But having my ideas translate over to the screen faster feels nice.
And then, there’s the fact that I want to make games, and be a well-rounded game designer. Right now, I feel that if you want be become an okay game designer, you should make a lot of games. If you want to be a great designer, you should make a lot of different games. Board games, physical games, simple dice games, digital games, etc. Even expand genres within one subset of games. You may be good at making puzzle games, and want to only make that type of game, but you may learn something new and useful if you tried making an FPS or a platformer. To be better than great, you need to do more than game design. That means read few books, or do things away from the screen. Basically increase the number of pools that you’re able to pull from. But that’s a different area of discussion.
As for now, the plan is to create more paper prototypes before I sit down in front of the computer. This should, hopefully, lead to better digital game designs, and the creation of more board games.
I’ve been working on a new project which has been full of a number of experiments. From musical experiments, to hardware, to controls, and even how players will interact with each other. My biggest fear with this current project is whether or not I’m trying to branch out too much in regards to too many unexplored areas in a single project. Now, these are things that many people have tried, or may have attempted, in the past, both successfully and unsuccessfully. Whether or not I’ll emulate the path of success has yet to be determined, but I hoping for the former.
I’ve been trying to compose and create music for quite some time now, before game development, so the musical experiments may be the area that I am currently the most comfortable with. What I’m trying to do can actually be compared a bit to a previous project, Tone Def: Revenge of the Square Bots (sidenote: I think that game is actually going to be a free game with volumes added at later dates…..). TDROTS required a bunch of music shifting and blending. Music had to fade in and out, while sounding good. What was easy about this, however, was all I needed to do was create individual song which could basically be stripped for parts as I put them in the game. The song would be composed, then I would import the bass track, the harmony tracks, and the melody tracks separately. When you would start playing, you would know that there was something missing, thus, leading to a more rewarding feeling when you eventually progress far enough in a level to where the entire song is playing. Normally, this meant that you were doing well in the game, so in addition to receiving the explicit rewards of a job well done, you were rewarded with a full musical piece which enforced the success of destroying your enemies. On the flip-side, when you did not perform as well, the songs felt rather empty and lonely, begging to have a harmony or melody to accompany it.
Now, with the new project, I’m starting out in a slightly similar position. You still have an effect on the music that plays in the game. However, the music is not a secondary indicator or whether or not a player is doing a good job or whether they’re failing. Rather, the music corresponds to a certain option that the player has picked.
To explain in more detail, there are two players in the game, and they each have the same set of options. For now, let’s call them, Red, Green, and Blue. When a player chooses Red, then they will hear track 1; green plays 2 and blue plays track 3. Players can cycle between these options as often as they would like, and the tracks would follow them as they cycled the colors used in this example. They could even both choose Red, and both have track 1 play at the same time.
The experimental part, for me, comes from trying to create a song that will sound like a complete musical experience as long as it always has two tracks playing at the same time. This means that any combination of two tracks will need to complete the auditory experience. The individual tracks need to be compelling enough as to where it can be played with the accompanying drum track (which is played throughout an entire song, regardless of options chosen) and stand on it’s own. However, if also needs to be compatible with a different track, for example, if player one currently has Red, and player two currently has Green.
I’ve also placed a few restrictions on myself in order to try and keep this from getting out of hand. I have a tendency of making things overly complicated, and the same goes for songs. It may start with adding a bell or two, and end up with multiple synths paralleling what the strings just played, except, this time, in time to the new drums that came in halfway, as opposed to the original set of drums. Instead, what I’m planning on doing is always have a drum track that plays consistently throughout a level, have a bass track as a musical option, and have a melody/harmony mix, either composed of one or two instruments. In the song I’m working on now, I have the drums and bass, while the melody and harmony are handled by the same instrument.
In addition to the tracks complimenting each other, they need to be shuffled in and out rather quickly, akin to a DJ mixing up an individual track. Quite often, a DJ will take out the bass of a song, or the vocal melody, which simplifies a track, while still keeping it interesting. Or they may mix in the harmony of a different song to the one that is currently playing. What I need to do with this project is balance them both carefully. Furthermore, it needs to be determined whether or not this musical shifting is actually something that fits in the overall game, or just sticks out like a sore thumb, detracting from the entire experience. I will say that during some moments, such as when both players choose the same colors, the track playing does get amplified, since there are two audio sources playing the same track. It seems to create the feeling of, “Hey, there’s something a bit more direct that we need to take care of”, and it actually does reflect the current state of the game if players find themselves forced to pick the same option.
But that’s it for now. I do hope to continue this musical experiment, and really do hope that it is successful. Of course, only time, and play testers, will tell. Over the next week or two, I may put up some samples of music that I’m working on for this project.